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How to plan responsible outdoor lighting

 A new manifesto sets out how ensure outdoor lighting at night is responsible and does not waste energy and create light pollution.

A vew over a brightly-lit city with an orange sky.

Manchester's sky is bright orange on a winter's night. Nearly 80% of England is affected by light pollution. (Photo: Tom Blackwell via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Date published

The Responsible Outdoor Lighting at Night (ROLAN) Manifesto for Lighting Professionals sets out ten core principles for external illumination and a plan of action to implement positive change in the lighting community for a more sustainable, healthier and safer future.

Is your charity a light polluter?

Good outdoor lighting supports people's safety and the security of buildings and property. But excessive, poorly designed lighting wastes energy, hinders safety and causes light pollution.

Light pollution is defined as the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light. As well as wasting huge amounts of energy, badly designed lighting can have serious environmental consequences. Components of light pollution include:

  • Glare – excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort and can limit a person's ability to see details not directly illuminated by the light - increasing safety risks
  • Light trespass – light falling where it is not intended or needed, often creating a nuisance, including by affecting sleep and the natural cycles of animals and plants, including important pollinators such as insects and bats
  • Clutter – bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light sources affecting people's attention and ability to navigate
  • Skyglow – brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas.

Planning and managing outdoor lighting

The ROLAN manifesto sets out principles for planning and implementing outdoor lighting at night. These are:

  1. Everyone should have the right to access darkness and quality lighting, and light needs to be used and distributed fairly without discrimination.
  2. Start your design with darkness and only add light if it supports nocturnal placemaking and protects a view of the stars.
  3. In all projects, strive to maximise the benefits of outdoor light at night by creating legible, safe spaces and journeys, simultaneously limiting each project’s environmental and financial costs.
  4. Apply the Five Principles of Responsible Outdoor Lighting in all lighting projects:
    • All light should have a clear purpose. 
    • Light should be directed only to where it’s needed. 
    • Light should be no brighter than necessary. 
    • Light should be dimmed down or turned off when not required.
    • Use warmer colour lights where possible.
  5. Collaborate with researchers from different disciplines and specialities, such as astronomers, ecologists, biologists, lawyers, etc., so they can provide expertise on unfamiliar topics.
  6. Educate your clients about the importance of ROLAN.
  7. Ensure the community you work with is an active stakeholder and participant in all lighting projects. Enquire about their needs and wishes at night, and provide them with access to information to make informed decisions.
  8. Embrace technology by asking for support from the lighting industry to ensure that night-time biodiversity is sustained and energy consumption is reduced. Engage with the lighting design industry to deliver an appropriate lighting solution.
  9. A circular economy should be integrated into the brief, design, specification, and manufacturing process of your project, as well as its installation.
  10. After project completion, visit the site at night with community stakeholders, to verify that your lighting design was fully implemented and meets ROLAN principles.
    More information

The ROLAN manifesto was compiled by researchers from the Gdansk University of Technology and DarkSky, with contributions and support from further Founding Partners: the Society of Light and Lighting (SLL), the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), the Institution of Lighting Professionals (ILP) and the Lighting Industry Association (LIA).

For more information, visit the website of Dark Sky, the leading international organisation combating light pollution worldwide.